Lansing, Judge Ramsey County District Court File No. K4022208
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and
Evidence of similar conduct offered in a domestic-abuse prosecution is admissible under Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2002) only if the state can prove the conduct by clear and convincing evidence.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge
This appeal from a misdemeanor domestic-violence conviction presents the question of whether Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2002) as applied to abrogate the clear-and-convincing-evidence requirement of Minn. R. Evid. 404(b) violates the separation-of-powers doctrine of the Minnesota Constitution. We conclude that the legislature did not intend to abrogate the clear-and-convincing-evidence requirement and that section 634.20 does not conflict with rule 404(b). Because the district court admitted evidence of similar prior conduct without determining whether that conduct was proved by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse and remand for a new trial.
Tyrone McCoy was charged with one count of interference with an emergency call and one count of misdemeanor domestic violence following an incident in which he allegedly struck Jamie McCoy, his spouse, with a belt and initially prevented her from calling for help. Before trial, Jamie McCoy informed the state that she had fabricated the alleged assault because she was angry about a relationship McCoy had been having with another woman.
At the opening of trial, the state sought permission to introduce a police report and medical records to show that McCoy had assaulted Jamie McCoy in 1997. The state contended that evidence of the 1997 incident was admissible under Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2002), which permits the court to admit evidence of similar prior conduct between the defendant and another household member in domestic-abuse cases. According to the state, admissibility under section 634.20 hinges solely on whether the offered evidence is of similar prior conduct and whether its probative value outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice.
McCoy objected to the evidence on grounds that the state could not prove the prior conduct by clear and convincing evidence, as required under the rules of evidence and governing case law. McCoy argued that to the extent that section 634.20 admitted prior-conduct evidence without clear and convincing evidence that the prior incident occurred, the statute unconstitutionally impinged upon the power of the judiciary to regulate evidentiary procedures.
The district court admitted the evidence of the 1997 incident. It ruled that the admissibility of similar-conduct evidence in a domestic-abuse prosecution is governed by Minn. Stat. § 634.20, and not the rules of evidence or case law, and that the statute does not require proof by clear and convincing evidence.
Jamie McCoy testified at trial and maintained that McCoy had not struck her with the belt as she had initially claimed. On direct examination the state asked Jamie McCoy about the 1997 incident, which she said she could not remember. The state also asked McCoy about the incident, and he, too, denied it. The state did not introduce the police report or the medical records. The jury convicted McCoy of the ...